For months, Paraguay has been going through a wave of murders carried out by assassins linked to drug trafficking. They mainly occur in border areas, where gangs made up of Paraguayans and Brazilians dedicated to drug distribution operate.
The most resonant case of the last few days was the crime of the mayor of Pedro Juan Caballero, José Carlos Acevedo, assassinated by seven bullets by two hooded subjects, last may 17th. Dangerous criminal groups operate in that city of the Amambay department, such as the Comando Vermelho, the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), and local organizations such as the Rotela clan.
The Acevedo family is entirely linked to politics and has repeatedly denounced the actions of these mafias. Ronald, brother of José Carlos and governor of Amambay, has suffered attacks in 2010, 2018 and 2021. In the first he was shot twice and the driver and a guard were killed; in the second a bodyguard died; and in 2021 his 21-year-old daughter Haylee was murdered.
The family targeted the national government
As soon as the attack against his brother, Ronald Acevedo targeted the Government of Mario Abdo Benítez and the Paraguayan Police. “I send word to the president of the republic that he is to blame for what is happening in Pedro Juan Caballero and what happened to my brother,” he said, according to the newspaper Última Hora. José Carlos would die five days later in a hospital, after being diagnosed with brain death.
At the mayor’s funeral, Ronald Acevedo reiterated his criticism of the “narco-politicians” , whom he promised to “kick out” if they came to the wake. “I think my statements bothered them because they didn’t even give me their condolences,” he said, and said he didn’t expect the government to clarify the incident: “Just as they did in the case of my daughter, I don’t think they will do anything in the case of my brother”.
Ronald’s wife and sister-in-law of the last victim, Carolina Yunis, temporarily assumed the administration of Pedro Juan Caballero, until a new election is called , within a maximum period of 90 days. The former head of the Municipal Board knows that she is also exposed to a possible new attack: “I don’t know what we can expect from these people, if they killed my daughter who had nothing to do with it and now my brother-in-law, who’s next?” , he asked himself as the family said their last goodbye to José Carlos Acevedo.
The murder of Acevedo is added to that of Marcelo Pecci, a specialized prosecutor in the fight against drug trafficking, which occurred on May 10 on an island in Colombia, where he spent his moon of honey. Two assassins who were traveling on jet skis approached the private beach of a hotel on Barú Island, located 38 kilometers south of Cartagena, and shot him in front of his pregnant wife.
🔎 One of the last jobs of anti-drug prosecutor Marcelo Pecci was to reveal an international drug trafficking and money laundering network with close ties to politicians and elected representatives of the NRA. He was assassinated in Colombia. pic.twitter.com/tkI8dRaWkM
– El Surtidor (@elsurti) May 11, 2022
The homicide was a clear message against Justice, since the anti-drug prosecutor was advancing in investigations that link drug trafficking with the highest spheres of politics in Paraguay. Pecci, 45, specialized in organized crime, the illegal drug trade, money laundering and financing of terrorism.
The upsurge in violence in Paraguay would respond to the confrontation between the most important drug gangs that are vying for control of the drug route. The country is the main producer of clandestine marijuana in the region, and from there shipments are sent to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and also to Europe.
The incredible leak of ‘Gordito Lindo’
On Sunday Óscar Ortíz, alias ‘Gordito Lindo’ and one of the leaders of the Clan Rotela, escaped from the Tacumbú prison disguised as a woman, but could be recaptured hours later near the prison by agents of the National Police.
#NOW Prosecutor Andrés Arriola charged César Ramón Ortiz alias “gordito bonito”, a policeman, his partner and two other people for the escape attempt. Judge Yoan Paul Lopéz ordered the preventive detention of the five people. pic.twitter.com/Av8Y7ZZfMN
– Perla Silguero Zárate (@PerlaSilguero) May 31, 2022
The Clan Rotela was founded by Armando Javier Rotela, detained in 2011 and known as the ‘micro-trafficking czar’. Little by little, despite the fact that its top leader was imprisoned, the organization became one of the main drug distributors in Paraguayan prisons, forming a network that reaches prisons throughout the country.
The clan protects all its soldiers in prisons, and maintains a bloody dispute with the PCC for power in Paraguayan prisons. Since 2012 there have been riots, murders and escapes related to this conflict. By the way, after the escape and recapture of ‘Gordito Lindo’ a new revolt almost took place among the inmates of Tacumbú, where it is also suspected that there was complicity of the prison agents in the escape.
Despite being imprisoned as its top leader, the Rotela Clan became one of the main drug distributors in Paraguayan prisons, forming a network that reaches prisons throughout the country.
On Monday, the Minister of Justice of Paraguay, Édgar Olmedo, revealed that some 20 prison officials were removed from their positions, accused of having facilitated the departure of Ortíz, considered a right-hand man by Javier Rotela.
“There was a control failure, negligence and incompetence, but complicity is not ruled out”, said the official to the newspaper Última Hora.
An complicit State?
In March, President Mario Abdo Benítez dismissed two ministers investigated for alleged connection with drug gangs operating on the border with Brazil, while four other pro-government legislators were denounced for alleged money laundering
However, the president continues to ponder his administration in terms of security and the fight against drug trafficking , and blames the Judiciary. Last week, during an official act, he warned that if Justice does not fulfill its role before the end of his mandate, in August of next year, he will reveal “everything that is being kept quiet and the complicity with which he favors organized crime today.” “.
Although he did not name names, Abdo Benítez claimed to have evidence of what was exposed: “I am going to count one by one and nothing I say will be a lie, it will be with evidence and papers so that you know the truth and let’s go out to defend Paraguay together”
“I am not the Justice, I am not the Prosecutor’s Office, I am the Executive Power. But before finishing my Government, if the other powers –of the State–, if the other estates do not act, I am going to tell the people everything that they are keeping quiet about and the complicity of the other powers of the State that today favor organized crime in Paraguay”, he warned despite the fact that, as the highest national authority, he should concretely denounce what he publicly affirms.
From Congress, meanwhile, the pressures were exerted towards the Government and Justice. Four days after the death of José Carlos Acevedo, the Paraguayan Senate issued a resolution requiring the Prosecutor’s Office, the National Police and the military forces to clarify within two weeks the murder of the mayor, and demands that if the case is not clarified, “a purge” be carried out in the security forces.
The The statement approved by the body urges “the Executive Branch, the Judicial Branch and the Public Prosecutor’s Office to urgently clarify the cowardly attack that ended the life” of Acevedo.
So far, investigators have identified four assassins as the perpetrators of the attack, who are presumed to have escaped to Brazil, and have detained two women for inquiries.